The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Thursday, January 26 the recall of its ambassador to Burkina Faso “to consult” the day after the announcement of the departure of the country of French special forces by ” a month “. “In the context of the latest developments in Burkina Faso, we have decided to recall our ambassador to Paris, to hold consultations on the state and prospects of our bilateral cooperation”explained to AFP the Quai d’Orsay.
Asked about the provisional or definitive recall of Luc Hallade, the spokeswoman for the Quai d’Orsay Anne-Claire Legendre stressed that Paris had agreed with the Burkinabe authorities. “to deal with this subject in good agreement and in the usual diplomatic forms”. For now, the ministry “enjoy his presence” in Paris to take the pulse of the current situation and the prospects of the bilateral relationship, she added during a press briefing.
In diplomatic usage, such a reminder for “consultation” signals discontent with the country or even a diplomatic crisis. But Luc Hallade’s recall also coincides with a request from the Burkinabe junta to replace the ambassador. In December, a letter had indeed been sent to Paris to demand his departure, the authorities accusing him of having publicly reported the deterioration of the security situation in the country, in the grip of jihadist violence.
The ambassador, who arrived in Ouagadougou in the summer of 2019, however remained in his post. And the visit of French Secretary of State Chrysoula Zacharopoulou on January 10 had hinted at a possibility of appeasement. The turning point came a few days ago when the Burkinabé government decided to denounce the 2018 agreement relating to the status of the French forces present in this country.
“Inventing a future together”
A denunciation “formally” received Tuesday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “In accordance with the terms of the agreement, the denunciation takes effect one month after receipt of the written notification”, he told AFP. France will respect “the terms of this agreement by complying with this request”added the Quai d’Orsay.
Faced with degraded Franco-Burkinabe relations and growing anti-French sentiment across the country, French officials have hammered in recent months that the special forces would only stay at the request of the Burkinabe authorities. “France does not impose anything, it is available to invent a future together”declared the Secretary of State after an interview with Captain Ibrahim Traoré in power following a coup at the end of September.
However, shortly after this visit, the government of Burkina Faso had made it known that it would strongly affirm the sovereignty of the country and intended “diversify your partners” in the anti-jihadist struggle, which has long been waged mainly with the help of France, a former colonial power.
Burkina Faso is currently hosting a contingent of nearly 400 French special forces soldiers, in an operation called “Sabre”. These soldiers will have left the country “by the end of February” and the removal of all materials should be completed ” end of April “, a source familiar with the matter told AFP on Wednesday. According to concordant sources, the preferred option would then be to redeploy these elite soldiers to neighboring Niger, which already hosts nearly 2,000 French personnel.
The issue of development aid
Ouagadougou wants French military forces to leave without breaking diplomatically with Paris. But France is now awaiting partnership decisions from the Burkinabe authorities, who have initiated a rapprochement with Russia.
The Prime Minister made a low-key visit to Moscow in December before declaring two weeks ago that a partnership with Russia was “a choice of reason”. During her visit to Ouagadougou, Chrysoula Zacharopoulou “was very clear about the consequences of the choice that the authorities will make”, had recently explained to AFP a diplomatic source. And to add: “Every choice has consequences. »
“The Africa World”
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Among the questions, the future of French development aid which could be suspended, as in Mali, if the Burkinabés turned to the private Russian paramilitary company Wagner. About one billion euros was injected into Burkina Faso between 2011 and 2021 via the French Development Agency.